It’s Not Really About Toilet Training. Of Course Not.

I don’t want to talk about toilet training. Other than my own labour stories I don’t really like to get into discussions of bodily fluids. Plus I consider it somebody else’s business. My kid’s business. Which, as he grows older, I feel less comfortable discussing because it doesn’t belong to me.

But I will talk about how it makes me Feeeeeeel. Because this is MyBlog about MyFeelings. Just try and stop me.

Way back in the way back there I had an epiphany about the seesaw of independence enjoyed by a little person Trombone’s age. I related it to myself in grade 6. These days the seesaw feels a bit more Tilt-a-Whirly and here is how this relates to me in my later teenage years.

I was a restricted teen. I was not allowed to date, not allowed to stay out past 10, rarely allowed to attend sleepover parties. Most of my friends had parents who treated them the same way, so while I recognized that there were kids at school who were out till 1 am, it wasn’t part of my own sphere and I didn’t push it too much.

When I started university, though, I met people. Lots of people. New people. People living in dorms, people with permissive parents, people with what I soon realized were reasonable parents who made reasonable demands on their kids, their young adult kids. I started fighting back a little. I started nagging about curfew. I made the case that my bus trip from home to UBC was an hour long! How could I possibly do anything socially? Oh, borrow the car? But be home by 11? That means I can’t even see a 9 o clock movie! UNFAIR!

In my second year of university I met more people. I took a creative writing class and met writers. People older than me, cooler than me, far, far more interesting than me. Experienced. Witty. Smokers, drinkers, drug-doers. My 11 o’clock curfew tightened around my throat like a choke chain. It pulled me home to my same old bedroom, my dumb three-ring binders full of overwrought, purple poetry. If I could only just live a little, I thought. Imagine the things I would write. Imagine the things I would say.

(I mean I did try to imagine but
it all came out
not strong
just images billowing
around pinpricks of ideas.)

I should point out here – or at some point – that I understand what my parents were doing. I got it, even then. The world. Is huge. And I am their only child. And they both came from traditional backgrounds (that they totally rejected as soon as they could in order to start their own lives together but I digress) and were older than most other parents; in their 30s when they had me. They were far from their families’ support, both working hard, attempting to instill certain values and qualities in me and doing the best they could, absolutely. Their best was more than good enough; I am pretty darn awesome if I do say so and I credit them with so much of who I am. (hi mom!)

At the end of my second year of university, I went out with a friend to celebrate having finished our final exam in German Literature in Translation. We went to Stanley Park and drank a lot of vodka. About half an hour later, I lost my balance while peeing by the side of the road, er, major thoroughfare, and fell on my face. I don’t remember much after that but I am told that:

– we wandered down to the railroad tracks to find our way to Gastown and meet a friend
– we got picked up by a train driver, I think his name was Bill
– he drove us in his train to the parking lot, then put us in his pickup truck and drove us home.

I made curfew! It was only 9 pm! High fives!

The next day I went to my second day at my new job sporting a Very Bad Hangover and had to explain to everyone where the cuts on my forehead had come from.

That night my parents and I had a Very Frank Discussion about my behavior.

I had already been contemplating moving out on my own at some point but after being grounded I set a departure date for two months later. (I mean, obviously I was not in need of any further parental guidance…yikes)

When I had the talk with my parents about moving out in two months, my father said,
“You can’t,”
and I said,
“Yes I can.”

He said,
“Well then I won’t pay for university anymore.”
And I said,
“I will pay for it myself.”

He said,
“There’s no way you can do that. You’ll be back.”
And I said,
“No. No I won’t.”

And I wasn’t.

I was thinking about all this today during the Great Toilet Standoff 2009. No matter how much I want my kid to bend to my will, he won’t. Even if it is logical. Even if there is no good earthly reason for him to refuse. He has nothing invested* in doing it my way. He has everything invested in doing things his way: his autonomy.

I know a lot of things that he doesn’t know. I am 32 years older than him. I can remember far back and look far forward. I am very big, very powerful, very important.

But he knows the most important thing. He knows who he is. He likes who he is. He does not want me to change who he is. It’s all he has and he is not giving it up without a fight.

I am trying to press myself, my values, my expectations, my BUSINESS on him and in doing so, erase him. It is a disagreement we will have many times, about many things.

But it’s for your own gooooooood doesn’t hold any water when it’s a fight for identity.

So maybe the only way to do this is to give it over to him completely. Let him move out, pay the rent, pay his tuition, live on noodles and beer, work it out for himself.**

And tell him if he needs to come back, I will be here.

* yes I am pondering the sticker chart reward M&Ms system but reluctantly
** what does this look like in practice? Dunno. Working on it.

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